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Asia Today: Australian capital free of known virus cases

BANGKOK (AP) — The Australian Capital Territory has become the first of the country’s eight states and mainland territories to declare itself free of all known cases of the coronavirus.

Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman said the territory surrounding the capital city Canberra was free of any recorded infection on Thursday for the first time in seven weeks after the last patient recovered.

There have been 106 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canberra and three patients have died. ACT has a population of only 420,000, the second-smallest of Australia's states and territories, and its infection rate per head of population ranks in the middle of the field.

Everyone with cold or flu symptoms have been offered free COVID-19 testing in Canberra for the past week and the government said that offer will be extended for another week. One in 49 of the territory’s population had been tested by Thursday.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said a government announcement will be made Friday on the future of lockdown measures that will take into account the risk of a second wave of infections.

Lawmakers and their staff from across Australia will converge on Canberra on May 12 for the first regular sitting of Parliament since early March.

Australia has recorded 6,746 virus infections, 90 of whom have died. Eight new cases were reported since Wednesday.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— MALDIVES HAS FIRST DEATH: Maldives has reported its first death from the new coronavirus with 280 infections. Health Minister Abdulla Ameen said the victim was a 83-year-old woman from the capital, Male. The first cases of COVID-19 were reported at tourist resorts in this Indian Ocean archipelago, and authorities for sometime kept it from spilling over into the community. However, the number of patients has spiked suddenly on the capital island and far-off islands with no traceable source of infection.

— SRI LANKA NAVY CLUSTER: Sri Lankan authorities said 257 navy sailors are infected with the coronavirus in the biggest cluster since the Indian Ocean island nation reported its first patient a month ago. Army chief Shavendra Silva said of the 30 newest cases, 22 are sailors and seven had close contact with the infected sailors. More than half of Sri Lanka's 649 cases have been reported since April 22, and many are sailors and their contacts. The virus initially spread inside a naval camp and spread further when the sailors went home on leave. The government cancelled troop leaves Sunday and is reimposing a 24-hour countrywide curfew from 8 p.m.

— INDIA CREDITS LOCKDOWN: India says it has had success in curbing coronavirus infections by imposing the world's largest lockdown five weeks ago. The Home Ministry looked ahead to considerable relaxations in some areas when the lockdown is reviewed Sunday. India has reported more than 33,050 cases with 1,074 deaths. On Wednesday, migrants and other people stranded by the lockdown were allowed to resume their journeys by road. Neighborhood shops have been allowed to reopen and manufacturing and farming allowed to resume.

— SOUTH KOREA’S INCREASE LOW: South Korea reported four more cases of coronavirus infection in its first daily increase below five in about two months. The Koreas Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the country’s totals were now 10,765 cases with 247 deaths. It said 9,059 people have recovered and been released from quarantine. The four new cases were all imported. Local media said it was the first time South Korea had no daily increase of local infections since Feb. 15.

— CASES DECLINE IN CHINA: China reported no new deaths from coronavirus and four new cases, all brought from outside the country. China has been testing and quarantining arrivals from abroad, who have accounted for many of its recent cases. The National Health Commission said 619 people remain hospitalized with COVID-19. China has reported 4,633 deaths from the virus among 82,862 cases.

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